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Often friends and family of survivors of sexual assault have strong reactions. They may feel angry, frightened, and/or hurt. They may feel angry with the perpetrator or, if they know the perpetrator, they may feel angry with the survivor and disbelieve him or her.

To avoid their own uncomfortable feelings, people might blame the survivor, are skeptical, or avoid the survivor. None of these responses are helpful.

When speaking to a friend who has been assaulted it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  • Believe your friend.
  • Let your friend know you are willing to listen, but don't press for specific details.
  • Let your friend decide how much he or she reveals.
  • Make it clear to your friend that he or she was not at fault in any way for being assaulted.
  • Avoid making comments about what might have been done to prevent the assault.
  • Be prepared to listen for as long as your friend needs your support. Sometimes friends and family members expect survivors to be upset for a short time. Understand that the effects of a sexual assault do not just go away rapidly. Survivors often have the need to talk about the incident months and years later.
  • Encourage your friend to talk to a counselor at the RWU Center for Counseling and Student Development (401-254-3124) and/or Day One (401-421-4100).
  • Protect your friend's privacy. Avoid revealing details about your friend's information to others.
  • Help to empower your friend.  Instead of offering advice, ask how you can be supportive.
  • Help the survivor sort through their options and make his or her own decisions.
  • Consider seeking assistance from the Counseling Center yourself.  It can often be stressful and upsetting to learn of a friend’s assault.